Song Reflections: Toad the Wet Sprocket “Amnesia”

I love Toad the Wet Sprocket.  They are my all-time heroes, though the parts I particularly gravitate toward are their heavier and darker side.  Their reunion record seems to heavily favor the sunnier side, at least in terms of the sound, if not the lyrics.  I miss the dark Toad, though I still cherish what they gave us back in the 90s.

“Amnesia” is quite possibly the most abrasive, darkest song in their catalog.  Lyrically, I can’t quite make out what this is about, though I don’t mind the mystery — the intrigue is part of what makes me come back to a song over and over.

That being said, my take on this is that it’s about desperation.  A desperate person takes desperate measures.  Which seldom work out, but a desperate person doesn’t see other options.

Another thing is that a desperate person is like a different personality — desperate me doesn’t remember what it’s like to be normal, that things turned out OK other times.  So afterward, when you look back at your desperate actions, it’s hard to see how that person made those decisions.  I mean, you can understand the reasons, but you may not see why the response had to be that drastic.  It’s hard to relate.  You would not do the same when you are in a different frame of mind, even if all other elements about the circumstances were the same.

I used to be this way myself — my life had more drama.  And in those dramatic moments, I would take these desperate measures, which produced more drama and desperation.  It’s very hard when it’s set up as a pattern, but when you’re in a calmer state of mind, you may want to device a plan to reach out to that desperate version of yourself.  To reach out to that heat of the moment and remind the desperate you that there is a better way, a better time, a better frame of mind.  A drama doesn’t last forever.  When the emotion is strong and when I’m looking for some kind of quick fixes or drastic measure to fix everything — I’ve learned to just sit with it.  Not act out of my feelings.  No, I don’t remember being any different, during those times.  But I did receive the message from the better me, and I just sit and wait.

Because desperate acts only yield more desperation.


Song Reflections: System of a Down “Deer Dance”

This is a sobering song.  I listen and be humbled, and in that humbling feeling I find a sense of relief. Being proud and arrogant takes a lot of energy to keep up the pretense.  There is a relief in admitting that we fall short.  We make mistakes, we fail, we disgrace ourselves.

Here is a very angry and political song, but at the core of it, it makes us face our weakness, our tendency to try and get away with taking advantage of other people.  When you know they can’t fight back, you know you won’t get caught.

I’m a Japanese living in US, two countries that have history of invading other countries, appropriating what they have and shoving its own culture down other communities’ throat.  But on a more micro-scale, I’m a father.  And as much as I love my children, I often feel the temptation to get away with things I wouldn’t dare pull off in front of other adults.  If I was a true man of integrity, I’d uphold the principles and values I intend to impart on my children — but when it’s inconvenient or when I am feeling frustrated then I may give in and pull something on my own kids.  Something I wouldn’t do if I really thought I could get caught.

Which relates to the idea of bullying.  Bullying may be an evil act but that doesn’t necessarily make bullies evil people.  They are carrying their angst and frustrations and are without resources to fight off the temptations of the situations where they won’t get caught or hurt. You could even argue that an entire country or government may be the same — certain groups of people within may be in a situation where they can’t and won’t fight off the temptation.   It does not excuse or justify their actions, but it helps us realize something important.

Some acts have more dire consequences than others, but even if our transgressions are of forgivable sort — we need to own up to the fact that we fall prey to these temptations.  We need to become aware, repent, ask for forgiveness, and seek to improve.  I believe that these growth won’t occur while we’re spending our energy keeping up the pretense of being high and lofty.

So I listen to songs like Deer Dance, and wonder if or when I have “pushed the weak around” myself.  And be humbled.

Song Reflections: Jerry Cantrell “Psychotic Break”

This is a heavy song, in just about all aspects.  It’s not a song I can listen to casually, because it’s so intense.  But sometimes we do feel that intense, the weight of our situation, our interpretation, our gifts.

I feel the fear take on
Reside in darkness, thrive where most won’t go
Adrift, I curse my gift
And hope you never know

Taking it gracefully is my modus operandi in stressful situations.  Stay calm, don’t act from emotions.  But that means sucking in the strong emotions that exist, not letting them show.  So I really relate to this song, when I feel like I’m given something, and I’m trying to hold it in, hide it from the view, because I don’t want you to know what I have.  It’s a secret I really don’t want anybody to know.  That’s how I maintain peace, at least outwardly.  Be the calm in a storm.

Of course, you can’t go on forever like that, you need an outlet.  That’s where these heavy songs come in for the rescue.  Difficult situations are like gifts you didn’t want (even though a lot of times they end up being what we needed, in a character-building sort of way).  One more secret to add to my pile, the ones I need to make sure you don’t know.

So I listen to Jerry curse his gift and struggle to hide it, and I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, that a song was given to me to let me know that I don’t have to keep on carrying these secrets.  These songs provide me places to go, to unload the burden.

Song Reflections: In Flames “In Plain View”

This song is the epitome of what I call “hard music for hard times” — heavy songs conveying really heavy, hard feelings.

One of the biggest fears we have in life is disappointments.  When you think about it, so many of our fears boil down to trying to prevent letdowns.

This song is about letdowns, when you thought the path was clear — yet you cannot proceed because fear is holding you back.

Deep inside
The memories that are left behind
Close my eyes
I’ve been hopelessly lost in the fear

Fears are learned, they come from memories, those of painful experiences.  And they get stuck.  They get stuck in our body, and a lot of times we are not even aware that it’s there.  The path looks clear — in plain view, there’s nothing in the way.  But you may find that you still can’t move forward.

It’s because the fear is still in you.  Holding you back.  You need to get it out, be free.  I realize I’m talking about something huge and heavy, something not to be treated casually.

But the basic notion is the same.  Fear lives inside.  You need to get it out.  How, there are ways, some will work better for you than others.  But fear is something we all should aim to purge.

Song Reflections: Queen “The Show Must Go On”

This song is about as cathartic as it gets.

This is the last song on the last album Queen released before Freddie Mercury died.  And they knew what was going on when they were working on the album.  Bryan May and Freddie talked about it, and Bryan put this song together for Freddie.

To hear his voice soar and nail those notes as brilliantly as he did, when he was so weak that he could sing only for a short while each day. To hear him sing these lines, while literally coming face to face with the end of his life.

Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on

It’s so heroic, I can’t help but tear up when I think about it.  What an amazing, inspiring song.